Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Praying for Visible Unity in the Church

There is no avoiding it: Until the Church is united in the bond of Love
found at Pentecost, it is failing to heed its Lord and its call.

Below is a memorial (a short form of prayer on a specific concern) for Christian unity. During this week of prayer for unity in the Church, we are called to remember that the division between Christians is perhaps the greatest scandal and failing among us. It so deeply vitiates the witness of the Gospel in many places that no amount of evangelism or church-growth efforts will suffice. We must overcome our divisions.

To do this, we need only turn to the Gospel itself, and to the faith of the Ancient and Undivided Church. That Apostolic Faith is fully sufficient to meet the need, providing both the essential saving message of Salvation, and the humbling of our various “traditions” under Our Lord’s call to bring the Gospel to all peoples, as found in the Great Commission.

This work must begin in prayer and in the hearts of individual believers. Until we understand that division in the Church is a sin and a violation of our baptismal covenant, and until will accept that unity comes not from institutional initiatives but from immersion in the Unity of the Triune God, the present fractured condition of the Church will remain the hideous and shameful wrong it is.

This memorial is traditionally offered in the mid-morning, recalling the hour of Pentecost, when the Church was given the Holy Spirit so that it might accomplish its mission in unity and love.

For Visible Unity in the Christian Faith

Antiphon: Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity with itself.

V. O pray for the peace of Jerusalem;
R. They shall prosper that love you.

Let us pray.

RANT, we pray you, Almighty God, to the whole Christian people unity, peace, and true concord, both visible and invisible; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 LORD Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and grant her that peace and unity which is agreeable to your will; who lies and reigns God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Prayer for Those in Need

This is a modernized version of a prayer compiled by bishop Lancelot Andrewes in the 17th century for use as part of daily intercession. Its simplicity is both arresting and powerful. It may be used after receiving the Mysteries in the Holy Eucharist (a time of special closeness to Christ), as part of one’s Daily Office prayers, or after times of personal intercessory prayer.

Intercession means, in effect, to "stand in the gap" with Christ the Great High Priest, to be part of His work of reconciliation in the ways He gives us. All Christians are called to do this work, both in prayer and in action:

Let us pray to the Lord:
For those wounded in spirit, sick in mind, and in great anxiety;
For those in peril of their life, those that are sick, those receiving medical treatment;
For captives, prisoners, especially those condemned to death;
For the poor, the oppressed, the desolate;
For women with child, in labor, and all young children;
For those away from home, travelers, pilgrims, wayfarers, and the homeless;
For all in any sort of jeopardy, especially those who do not pray, or have none to pray for them.
You, O Lord, are God at once of the living and the dead;
We are they whom the present world yet holds in the flesh;
They are those, unclothed of the body, the world to come has even now received:
Give to the living mercy and grace, to the + dead rest and life perpetual;
Give to the Church truth and peace, and to us sinners penitence and pardon. Amen.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

St. Leo the Great on the Epiphany

The Epiphany is one of the Principal Feasts of the liturgical year. Because it falls on a Sunday in 2013, it will receive much more focus than usual. This feast is, for Christians in the Western tradition, primarily a celebration of the adoration (worship) of the Christ child by the Magi—this being the first encounter by the Gentiles with the Lord who would grant us to be numbered amongst the holy People of God.

This excerpted sermon on the Epiphany by St. Leo the Great illustrates a number of features of classic Christian faith. It shows how deeply imbued with the Holy Scriptures all true teaching and preaching in the catholic faith must be. It delivers a message both of hope and of clear direction for how to savor this feast and how to apply it—in this case, by taking a lesson from the star that guides the Magi on their way, to help others come to their destination in God. It is a fine example of what faithful preaching has always been, and must always be, that the hearts of women and men may be nourished in the unique and joyful message of Salvation.

May your Epiphanytide celebrations continue the theme of joy and possibility begun at Christmas. Keep the whole season after Epiphany until Candlemas (Feb. 2) as a time of intentional thanksgiving for (in the words of the Epiphany Collect) being led by faith into God's nearer presence while on earth and for the promise of meeting our Lord "face to face" at the end of the ages.

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The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ.

A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham in regard to these nations. He was to have a countless progeny, born not from his body but from the seed of faith. His descendants are therefore compared with the array of the stars. The father of all nations was to hope not in an earthly progeny but in a progeny from above.

Let the full number of the nations now take their place in the family of the patriarchs. Let the children of the promise now receive the blessing in the seed of Abraham, the blessing renounced by the children of his flesh. In the persons of the Magi let all people adore the Creator of the universe; let God be known, not in Judaea only, but in the whole world, so that his name may be great in all Israel.

Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, who has made us worthy, in the words of the Apostle, to share the position of the saints in light, who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. As Isaiah prophesied: the people of the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and for those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a light has dawned. He spoke of them to the Lord: The Gentiles, who do not know you, will invoke you, and the peoples, who knew you not, will take refuge in you.

This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, when he knew that the sons born of his faith would be blessed in his seed, that is, in Christ. Believing that he would be the father of the nations, he looked into the future, giving glory to God, in full awareness that God is able to do what he has promised.

This is the day that David prophesied in the psalms, when he said: All the nations that you have brought into being will come and fall down in adoration in your presence, Lord, and glorify your name. Again, the Lord has made known his salvation; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.

This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.

Dear friends, you must have the same zeal to be of help to one another; then, in the kingdom of God, to which faith and good works are the way, you will shine as children of the light: through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
(from Sermo 3 in Epiphania Domini, 1-3. 5: PL 54, 240-244)

A Service at Home for Epiphanytide

Below is a service asking God's blessing on a home. This service does not require a person in Holy Orders to be present. It recalls the visit of the Magi to the Holy Family, and is meant to show the holiness of both Epiphany and a Christian's home. 

Candles, chalk, and holy water are used in this service (holy water is always available in the chapel at St. Timothy's; you may ask your parish priest for holy water if you do not have ready access in your own parish). In addition to a leader, a lector should be chosen to read the lesson.

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Epiphanytide Prayers for God’s Blessing on a Home
(Also known as "Chalking the Doors")

[The electric lights are dimmed in the room where the opening section of the service is to be celebrated. Candles are lit and arranged on a table, around which participants stand. Holy water may be placed in a bowl or other container for use at the service’s conclusion.]

All: + In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

Leader: Peace be to this house!

All: And to all who enter it in this year of God's favor and grace!

Leader: The Magi came from the East to worship the Lord Jesus.

All: And falling at his feet and beholding the radiance of his glory, the glory he had with the Father before the world began, they gave him precious gifts of mystic meaning.

Leader: They presented him with gold because he is the world's only true King, the one merciful Lord worthy of our gifts, our service and our vows! They blessed him with incense that sweet-smelling smoke might evermore rise up from our altars to the Throne of his majesty, worshipping and blessing and magnifying him, the one, true God! They offered him myrrh because it would soon anoint his immaculate body, preparing it for his burial.

A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew: (2:1-12)

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

All: Our Father....

Leader: Gracious God, you revealed your Son to the nations by the brilliant Star of Bethlehem! O Uncreated Light, Morning-Star of Epiphany and the world's New Dawn, lead us, warm our hearts, fortify our wills, enkindle our devotion to you, enlighten and illumine our inward vision! Lead us, guide us all the days of our earthly pilgrimage until we are received into your glory. We implore your great mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

[With chalk, the leader makes this inscription on the lintel of the main entrance: 20+C+M+B+13. The letters stand for the traditional names of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The numbers are for the year of our Lord. If holy water is to be used, it is brought forth for use at this time. If holy water is not to be used, the bracketed portion of the following prayer is omitted.]

Leader: Eternal God, we ask that you send your blessing to be upon this home. [Let the sprinkling of this holy water recall for us the gift of baptism, our consecration to Christ's service. May it drive far from this house and all who enter it all snares and assaults of the enemy. Wherever this water is sprinkled may safety be guarded and hospitality be made manifest.] Grant that faith, charity, and good health triumph over evil in this house. May your Word always be cherished and obeyed here. We give praise and thanksgiving to you, and to your Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Holy water, in the sign of the cross, may be applied to the door. All may then bless themselves with holy water; holy water may be applied to the doorway of each room in the house; those present may sing appropriate Epiphanytide hymns as they move from room to room.]